April 24, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/ VHP President Vishnu Hari Dalmia
'Are we to become a laughing stock in South Asia?'
There are few occasions that find Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Vishnu Hari Dalmia losing his cool. In fact, he has gained a reputation of being calm even when others around him breathe fire and brimstone.

But the Bangladesh crisis has got Dalmia worked up.

Barely have the greetings been exchanged that he lashes out at the Vajpayee government for its "jelly-kneed approach" towards the killing of 16 Border Security Force jawans by the Bangladesh Rifles.

When Tara Shankar Sahay met Dalmia at his 11th floor office, he was eager to take on the questions.

What do you think of the government's handling of the Bangladesh crisis?

The government's approach has been jelly-kneed. It is something which the entire country should be ashamed of. Has India today reached a point wherein even a country like Bangladesh has chosen to defy us, to callously murder our BSF jawans and gets away with it? Are we to become a laughing stock in South Asia? I am afraid this is what the government approach has done. This government is no different from its predecessors in soft-pedalling such issues of national security.

Why doesn't the government realise that until and unless it moves fast to take remedial measures, our other neighbours will become emboldened towards such misadventures? I must point out that even during the Kargil conflict, Pakistan had unilaterally seized the commanding heights by crossing over to our side of the Line of Control.

And now the Bangladesh Rifles intrude into our territory, beat up our villagers, scares them away by using terror tactics and generally thump their nose at our security forces. Is this how a large country like India should respond to such grave provocation? I simply fail to understand.

How do you interpret Defence Minister Jaswant Singh's statement in Parliament that the BDR intrusion in Pyrdiwah was criminal adventurism?

This is merely fancy usage of words. It is not going to restore the lives of our jawans. Far from healing our wounds, the defence minister's statement is rankling in the minds of our countrymen.

Instead of talking about how we should retaliate -- I don't mind saying extracting vengeance -- Jaswant Singh is indulging in inanities. Such wordplay will never prevent signals from going out that India is a soft State with whom even small countries can toy around.

In this particular incident, even tough words against the perpetrators of this horrendous crime will not suffice. You have to translate your words into decisive action.

Like what?

Do I need to give any further illustration? First it was Kargil in which I understand our soldiers got a brutal treatment from Pakistan. If we had taken some firm, decisive measures then, I am sure much of the cross-border terrorism by Pakistan would have ended.

The point is, if you don't act tough with your enemies when it is needed, they will get tough with you.

I think Bangladesh has cashed upon India's weak and defensive response during the Kargil conflict and has now been bold to defy us.

What is your interpretation of the government's response to the Bangladesh crisis which you allege is weak?

Vote politics, what else! I am sorry to say that this Vajpayee government is no different from its earlier counterparts who have unabashedly indulged in minorityism to woo Muslim votes. This BJP-led government is no exception to pacifying the minorities which boils down to gleaning Muslim votes. As the Bangladesh incident shows, it is being done at the cost of national self-respect which is a shame.

Why is it the government ignoring the warnings of the Sangh Parivar on this issue, especially the Shiv Sena and the VHP?

I can speak only on our behalf. As I told you before, our actions are based on national interest. But whether it is this Vajpayee government or any other government, we are treated as pariahs, as untouchables. I am wholly in agreement with the Shiv Sena MP who told the government that if it had struck back and killed four-fold more BDR personnel, Bangladesh would have been taught an apt lesson. But the government has resorted to placatory methods which will simply not do.

Why is the VHP against secularism in the country?

Please get it right, we are not against secularism, we are against the misinterpretation of secularism. Secularism as practised by all parties including the BJP is pandering to the whims and fancies of the Muslims in this country.

For instance, I think the reason this government did not favour any action against the intruding BDR personnel was because of its apparent perception that if it does so, it will anger the Muslims in India and thus lose their votes.

We think genuine secularism is equal respect to all religions and equal rights to all the citizens in this country. But this is not being done in this country because of the reasons I told you.

What do you think of the reports saying there was a Bangladesh troop build-up on the other side of the border ?

Of course, I am not surprised. When signals are being sent that anybody can enter India, slap its citizens in the face and spill its soldiers' blood, hostile external elements are naturally encouraged.

But the government has said it was awaiting the Sheikh Hasina government's response before initiating action against the BDR personnel?

Oh, I can assure you that the Bangladesh government's assurance that it will probe the murder of our BSF jawans is going to be a whitewash. And our government's wishy-washy approach has further hardened the resolve of the Sheikh Hasina government which has done a volte face and gone back on its words that it had expressed regret on the BSF jawans' killings.

Is there any way that the Bangladesh incident can be apprised to the peace-loving international community?

In such incidents, the aggressor only understands the language of force or retaliation. As for the human rights groups, they are only concerned with their own interests. I think they have little interest in the woes of a country like India.

So what is your party's strategy pertaining to this incident?

We will continue making the people aware of our national security concerns and what needs to be done to discourage incidents like Pyrdiwah and the BDR's strong-arm tactics.


'India's response has been very practical:' J N Dixit

Design: Dominic Xavier

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